How To Recover From Opiate Addiction?

opiates addiction treatment

The Most Popular Opioid Drugs

Opiate abuse has increased dramatically over the last several years. The prevalence and availability of opiate based prescription painkillers has provided a gateway for thousands to the world of opiate abuse and addiction. While the use of heroin has slightly declined, the use of opiate based prescription painkillers has increased significantly.

The number of unintentional overdose deaths involving opiate-based pain relievers quadrupled from 1999 to 2007. Between 2003 and 2009 Florida saw an increase of two hundred and sixty-five percent in Oxycodone deaths. Because prescription painkillers are easily taken orally, first-time opiate abuse is happening at younger and younger ages.

Opiates are produced from the seed of the poppy flower. From this flower we get morphine and codeine. Synthetic derivatives of morphine include hydrocodone (Vicodin), Oxycodone, which includes Percodan and Oxycontine, Dilaudid, Darvon, Demerol and Methadone.

Perhaps you began using opiates because of an injury you haver received. You were prescribed Vicodin or Oxycontine to deal with the pain of the injury. Once the injury had healed and you no longer needed a painkiller to deal with the pain, you found that you still wanted the medicine that was prescribed to you. Many opiate addictions begin in exactly this way.

Opiate addiction is difficult to recover from because of the discomfort of withdrawal. The fear or dread of physical withdrawal from opiates keep many opiate addicts from seeking help. The good news is that if you are addicted to heroin or any other opiate, it is entirely possible to get clean and to begin living a normal happy and productive life.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of recovery, lets take a look at why people become addicted to opiates.


Natural Opiates

In the first place it may surprise you to find out that the human body produces its own natural opioids, such as endorphins. When you experience pain, excitement, love during sex and when you exercise, these opioids attach themselves to the opioid receptors in the brain and in other parts of the body. Now this brings about a feeling of pleasure, well-being and acts as a natural painkiller.

Its pretty cool that the body has this mechanism. If you were to break your leg the opioids, which your body naturally produces, would act as a temporary, but effective painkiller and allow you to function well enough to seek help.

Opiates, such as heroin and oxycontine, work by activating the same receptors that naturally occurring neurotransmitters activate. These receptors are known as the U-opioid receptors. When you activate these receptors with heroin, oxycodone or any other opiate-based drugs, you feel intense pleasure. Opiates also increase the amount of dopamine in the brain, which only adds to the pleasurable effect.

The reason that we become addicted tp opiates is because when we introduce opiates into our body, the brain skels back on its own opioid production in order to compensate. In essence, your body says: "Hey! If you're going to supply your own opioids, I guess I don't have to anymore! So I'm going to cut back on the number of opioids that I produce and I'm going to let you keep introducing them the way you are introducing. "

This is all well and good as long as you are continually introducing opiate-based drugs into your body. But lets say that you decide to get clean and stop using opiates. The body does not just jump in and start producing natural opioids right a way to compensate. It waits to see if maybe you'll change your mind or maybe you will get lucky and score some dope. It takes a little while for the body to kick in and begin producing its own natural opioids again. And it and it takes a little while for the level to increase to a point, where you begin feeling good again.

This period in between, when you stop using your drug and when your body gets back to producing natural opioids at a normal rate, is known as the withdrawal period. You may have heard it called being dope sick.

There are basically two different ways to treat opiate addiction.


Medical Opiate Addiction Treatment

medical addiction treatment

The first way is to treat opiate addiction medically. This could either be through the use of methadone, or the use of buprenorphine methadone. Maintenance involves receiving regular and long term doses of methadone, which are dispensed through methadone clinics. The pluses of this method are that you won't experience very much physical withdrawal if any. And it is possible to begin live in a somewhat normal life.

The drawbacks of methadone maintenance are that you are still addicted to opiates and that you will need to live close enough to a methadone clinic to receive regular doses.

Studies have shown that:

  • 25% of those on methadone maintenance become abstinent;
  • 25% continue on methadone maintenance;
  • 50% go off and on methadone maintenance throughout the course of their lifetime.

One of the obvious dangers of methadone maintenance is that some addicts simply use the methadone to keep from getting dope sick, but still consume illegal opiates on the side. If you do this, you end up in worse shape than you begin.

Buprenorphine is another option. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which is taken three times a week as a tablet. You will experience withdrawal with this method.

Buprenorphine is often combined with a short-acting opiate antagonist called Naloxen. It acts to negate the pleasurable effects of any opiate that you bring into your body. So, if you do use an opiate while youre on Naloxen, you will not feel the pleasure that is normally associated with that opiate.

The pluses of Naloxen are that it is a tablet, which may be prescribed. It means that you do not have to live near a methadone clinic in order to use Naloxen.

The drawbacks of using buprenorphine combined with Naloxen is that you still have to go through withdrawal before you begin the treatment.

Another drawback is that this type of treatment depends upon you actually taking the tablet. Simply using buprenorphine combined with Naloxen does nothing to help recover from the emotional dependence on the drug. Its sometimes easy to start thinking: "Maybe I'll just go off of the tablet for a few days, get high and then get back on the tablet."


Nonmedicat opiate addiction treatemnt

Many addicts would prefer to be free from opiates altogether. This will entail nonmedical treatment.

Nonmedical treatment involves completely withdrawing from the drug. You will need to withdraw both physically and psychologically.

It is important to have support while you do this. One option for obtaining support during your withdrawal is to admit yourself to a residential treatment program.


Acute withdrawal phase



Your initial withdrawal from the drug will be primarily physical. This is known as the acute withdrawal phase or detoxification. This phase normally lasts anywhere from one to three weeks depending on how long you have been using and how much during acute withdrawal you may experience agitation, anxiety, trimmers, muscle aches, sweating, hot and cold flashes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Acute withdrawal is physically difficult and it is uncomfortable. If youre going through acute withdrawal right now, just hang in there! And remember that you deserve a good life.

Post-acute withdrawal phase

After the physical withdrawal symptoms of acute withdrawal have passed and they will pass. You will experience less intense withdrawal symptoms during what is known as the post-acute withdrawal phase. This is the phase of withdrawal, where your brain is returning to normal and fine tuning itself. During this phase you may experience boredom, insomnia, self-doubt, depression and restless legs. You can lessen the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome by doing things to increase your bodys own production of endorphins, such as eating sugar and engaging in intense exercise. It is important to drink plenty of water in order to enhance nerve conduction, rebuild cells and eliminate toxins.

Emotional withdrawal

You will also experience an emotional withdrawal from your drug. The emotional withdrawal phase may last several years. If you think about it you've been in an intense and intimate relationship with your drug for an extended amount of time. Like the breakup of any relationship, the emotional ramifications can be pretty intense and long-lasting.

You may find yourself experiencing a sense of grief over the loss of the relationship along with all the emotions which that entails. You may encounter underlying emotional issues, which were hidden and masked by your opiate use. You may find that you have unresolved emotional baggage from your past, which needs to be dealt with.

Now that you cant use your drug to cope with negative and unpleasant feelings, you may find difficulty coping altogether. You may find that you became emotionally addicted to the paraphernalia, which you used in your addiction or the rituals you engaged in in your addiction.

Chances are that your social life has begun to resolve around your drug use. That is why eliminating the drugs from your life leaves you without a social life and leaves you missing your old friends.

Delusional thinking

You will more than likely experience some delusional thinking in regards to your drug use. You may start to entertain the idea that you can go back and use opiates occasionally without getting strung out. It's an attractive idea that maybe you can get in and use just a little bit and then jump out before you get a habit going again.

The problem with this is that as soon as you use again, your emotional addiction comes back full force. It's as if you found a long-lost lover and it becomes very difficult to extricate yourself from that relationship before you know it the physical addiction is back as well.

Recovery from opiate addiction Long-term and lasting recovery from opiate addiction often involves:

  • addressing any unresolved emotional issues;
  • treating underlying emotional problems, which your drug use may have been hiding;
  • learning relapse prevention skills;
  • building a support system.

It is important for your emotional recovery to begin addressing any unresolved emotional issues. Now this might be emotional baggage from your childhood. Or it might be emotional baggage, which resulted from what you experienced while you were active in your addiction.


Resolving emotional baggage.

Addressing and resolving any emotional baggage will help you to be happier and more at peace with yourself. This in turn makes it easier to resist the urge to pick up. It is important that you address hurts from your past, unresolved anger, grudges, resentments, guilt and shame.

By resolving these issues within yourself, you'll remove a lot of the emotional discomfort, which could potentially drive you back into your active addiction.


Emotional disorders

You may also find now that you no longer use your drug to cope with life, that you have other emotional issues, which the drug was actually helping you to cope with.

Now that the drug is out of your life, it is important to treat these issues. Some of the more common emotional problems which are seen in addicts are:

  • depression;
  • anxiety;
  • anger problems;
  • codependency.

If it turns out that you suffer from any of these, learning how to cope with these problems in a healthy way will go a long ways towards guaranteeing your sobriety.


Relapse prevention skills

It is also important in your recovery to learn relapse prevention skills. For example, learning what specific feelings or circumstances trigger your cravings helps you to avoid those triggers or to deal with those triggers.

Achieving and maintaining a clean and sober lifestyle will probably be the most challenging thing that you have ever done. It is important to realize that its much easier to do this with other people than it is to do it alone.

A lot of recovering addicts gain strength and support from their involvement with family, with clean and sober friends, in Narcotics Anonymous and within their own religious communities.

As you continue your journey into your new opiate free lifestyle, remember that many people have successfully overcome opiate addiction and are now living happy and productive lives free from the bondage of addiction.